Contractor error caused toxic foam spill in Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — An investigation found that a spill of about 1,300 gallons of fire extinguisher at a fuel facility in Hawaii was caused by a maintenance contractor improperly installing an air vacuum valve, US military officials said Friday.

Used to suppress fires caused by flammable liquids, aqueous film-forming foam contains PFAS, a class of chemicals that break down slowly in the environment.

Liquid firefighting foam concentrate was spilled in November at the Red Hill bulk storage facility near Pearl Harbor. The concentrate pooled on the floor inside the facility and then leaked under a door and onto a paved driveway and the ground, the military said.

The statement said that “stricter safeguards and more assertive oversight of the Navy should have been put in place to reduce the risk of this type of mishap.”

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In 2021, jet fuel was spilled from a drain line at the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility. It flowed into a drinking water well and then into the Navy water system, which serves 93,000 people in and around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Nearly 6,000 people sought medical attention, complaining of ailments such as nausea, headaches and sores. The military housed some 4,000 families in hotels for several months.

Spills have contributed to distrust of the military in the community.

Navy Vice Admiral John Wade apologized at a news conference announcing the findings of the firefighting foam spill investigation. Hawaii news now informed.

PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, were developed as coatings to protect consumer goods from stains, water, and corrosion. Studies of laboratory animals given large amounts of PFAS have found that some of the chemicals can affect growth and development, reproduction, thyroid function, the immune system, and the liver.

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